The Rufus Towhee

Three times this spring I planted my snow-pea patch. Three times! That’s 90 seeds that went into the ground, and I couldn’t understand why not a single one sprouted.

Until I looked outside one day and saw a rufus towhee standing on the barren soil with a look of triumph about her. Then I understood that she’d been eating each seedling just as it raised its delicious green head from the soil. I couldn’t help but resent her.

I complained to my friends about my archfoe, the rufus towhee. She deserved my annoyance, I said. To thwart her, I gave up on snow peas and sprouted my green beans in tiny pots on the breezeway, where she couldn’t go. I’ll show you, I thought with my own look of triumph.

But then one day as I was watering my daylilies, she jumped out from under the leaves and glowered at me with fury in her red eyes. You deplorable fiend, you’ve sprayed my nest, she let me know. In it was what looked like a lump of raw steak, which I realized was her baby. In one second my resentment changed to remorse.

I’d been a brute to judge her snow-pea theft. She’d just been trying to earn a living. If I’d been a mother towhee, I’d have helped myself to the pea sprouts, too. With contrition, I put out a birdbath for her, and I refilled the birdfeeders with special seeds. Following the advice of my friend Patty, I tossed tiny bits of walnuts toward my towhee’s nest for treats.

It’s interesting how in just a finger snap a villain can turn into a friend. My towhee made me wonder about people I may not like – such as obnoxious neighbors or slimy colleagues. If I knew more about what was driving them and what their hidden circumstances were, my feelings toward them might quickly change. If we scratch below the surface of an adversary, maybe there is gold.

8 Responses to “The Rufus Towhee”

  1. 1 Gisele June 24, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    Your description of the towhee exhange is so vivid and sweet, that I’m warmed up and smiling. Thanks for your reminder to not make assumptions and viola a peaceable kingdom.

  2. 3 Linda Brandenburg June 21, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    This post makes me smile! I haven’t planted flowers because the rabbits eat them or the Stellar’s Jays dig them up to bury their peanuts that we’ve fed them.
    What I will sacrifice for those animals. The rabbits were villains for only a flash because we get such a kick out of them. I’m also a lazy gardener so allowing the fireweed to spread this summer makes me happy to anticipate the future blossoms. I’ve had a few human friends who were foes first before we figured it out.
    The birds I’m not as accepting of are crows. I love them for their intelligence (did you see that PBS program about them?) but they bully many of my favorite little birds and they follow the Jays to the peanut hiding spots!
    Do you have suggestions on rabbit free gardens? I’ve heard cayenne works but that seems cruel. Suddenly, all of this makes me think of “The Fabulous Mr. Fox.” I think that was what that movie was called. Or Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. Foes galore out there!

    • 4 Kristin von Kreisler June 21, 2011 at 3:51 PM

      I haven’t seen the program about crows, Linda, though I love how loyal they are to each other. And I don’t know how to have a rabbit-free garden unless maybe you put up a sturdy fence. I did that once and kept out the rabbits, but, then, my beagle sneaked in and ate all the veggies. All she left were tiny nubs of lettuce. She even ate the tomato and green bean plants! Indeed, there are lots of foes to contend with, but they’re such charming foes. Thanks for writing!

  3. 5 Natalia ilyin June 20, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    Aha! SO glad you made it up with the sprout-snatcher! I’ll have to remember that the next time I catch someone stalking my lettuce.

  4. 7 Pat McNees June 20, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Does that mean I have to be nice to the grump who lives downstairs?
    Nice story. — Pat

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